South Carolina Basketball: Gamecock week 6 in review

South Carolina basketball marches on. The new Gamecock weekly review has everything needed to catch up on how both teams are faring.

South Carolina basketball player B.J. Mack readies himself prior to a free-throw attempt.
South Carolina basketball player B.J. Mack readies himself prior to a free-throw attempt. / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

South Carolina basketball continues to stack up the wins. The Gamecocks are a combined 21-1 this season after starting a combined 16-6 last year. (The women’s team has started 11-0 in two consecutive seasons.)

The Gamecock men picked up two home wins over Charleston Southern and Winthrop, while the South Carolina women defeated Presbyterian by 70 at home and defeated Bowling Green on the road by 31. 

Despite the relatively non-difficult schedule for the men’s team, they struggled against Charleston Southern and Winthrop, holding their largest leads by just 8 points and 11 points, respectively. Dawn Staley’s group, per usual, did not have much to worry about in her team’s games, result-wise. 

The men’s team has a home game against Elon today at 7 p.m., their only game until next Saturday when they’ll take on Florida A&M, also at home. These two games are their last non-con games before conference games begin. 

Dawn Staley’s group does not play again until next Saturday, when they travel to Greenville, NC, (a place the men have traveled to previously this year) to take on East Carolina on the road. That game will conclude the non-conference portion of the schedule for the women’s team.   

South Carolina Basketball Weekly Review:
Stathead Section

Ashlyn Watkins is leading the women’s team with a 19.2% offensive rebounding rate. If Watkins played enough minutes to qualify for conference leaderboards, that mark would be four percentage points higher than the current qualifying SEC leader. (Lauren Ware from Texas A&M at 15.2%.) Watkins’s block percentage of 14.5% would also lead the conference, as Gamecock teammate Kamilla Cardoso is the current qualifying leader at 11.8%. 

The men’s team has another elite offensive rebounder. Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk leads the SEC in offensive rebounding percentage by a large margin. The gap between his 22.9% and the next-highest mark from Micah Handlogten of Florida is the same size as the gap between Handlogten’s rate and the 5th-highest rate.  

Three players on the women’s team are shooting at a FG% of 60.0% or above. If those rates hold, Kamilla Cardoso, Ashlyn Watkins, and Tessa Johnson would be the first trio to shoot 60% or better from the field in the Dawn Staley era. 

Amongst SEC players with a FTr (free-throw rate) over 40.0%, Meechie Johnson is 2nd in the conference in PPG with 18.3, trailing only Mark Sears. His usage rate of 30.6% is 4th in the SEC, just trailing Gamecock teammate B.J. Mack’s rate of 30.9%.

The South Carolina women have the highest net rating (not to be confused with the NCAA’s NET ranking, a record tool) in the SEC by a large margin. The Gamecocks’ mark of +54.2 is the only mark in the conference above +50.

The Gamecock men are limiting turnovers in non-conference games, leading the SEC with just 9.5 turnovers per game. Texas A&M and Kentucky are the only two teams with less than 10.0 per game. Two Gamecocks rank in the top-8 in the conference in assist/turnover ratio: Collin Murray-Boyles is 6th with a 4:1 ratio, while Ta’Lon Cooper is 8th with a 3.92/1 ratio. 

Despite ranking 9th in the SEC in 3PA, the Gamecock women are 4th in the conference in 3PM per game, with 7.4. Their beyond-the-arc shooting percentage of 41.8% is the highest in the conference and 3rd nationally out of 360 D-1 programs. 

Freshman Morris Ugusuk is living on the perimeter on offense. He leads the Gamecocks in 3PAr, with 70.0% of his shots coming beyond the arc. This mark is 5th in the conference amongst players with over 100 minutes, and Ugusuk is converting at a 33.3% clip. 

Just two D-1 programs (women’s or men’s) are averaging 50.0+ rebounds per game. One of those two is the South Carolina women, who are right at 50.0 for the year. They’ve had two games of 60+ rebounds this season.  

Meechie Johnson’s last five games have been extremely efficient from a scoring standpoint. While 18 players have averaged between 30.2-44.9 points/100 possessions in their last five games, 17 of those players fall between 30.2-37.6. Meechie Johnson is the outlier, 7.3 points higher than second-place Josh Hubbard (37.6). 

If the South Carolina women have room to improve in an area, it’s free throws. Despite overall elite shooting numbers, Dawn Staley’s group just hasn’t been getting it done from the line, ranking 11th in the SEC with a 65.6 FT%. 

The South Carolina men are the only team in the SEC with <12.0 points off turnovers per game and <120 turnovers forced this season. Despite the team success, the Gamecocks have had trouble with forcing their opponents into difficult situations offensively. South Carolina is 325th nationally with 10.6 turnovers forced per game. 

South Carolina Basketball Weekly Review:
Box Score Break

Against Presbyterian, 7 separate Gamecocks scored in double figures in the 99-29 victory. The South Carolina bench outscored the entire Presbyterian roster by a 42-29 margin. MiLaysia Fulwiley led the way with 18 points while also recording 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. Ashlyn Watkins had another impressive performance off the bench, recording a double-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and an additional 6 blocks. 

The Gamecocks in total recorded 17 blocks, while the Blue Hose did not record one. The 17 blocks were more than the total number of shots made by Presbyterian, who shot 10-64 (15.6%) from the field over 40 minutes.

Despite previous issues with turnovers, South Carolina committed just 8, while dishing out 21 assists. In addition to Ashlyn Watkins, Chloe Kitts also recorded a double-double. The Gamecocks played a disciplined basketball game, committing just 6 fouls over the course of the game. 

In the men’s game against Charleston Southern, just two Gamecocks scored 10+ points in what turned out to be a close contest, a 73-69 victory. B.J. Mack and Meechie Johnson scored 16 and 15 points, respectively, while Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, Collin Murray-Boyles, Ta’Lon Cooper, and Myles Stute all scored between 6-9 points each.

Meechie Johnson led the team in rebounds with 6, which, while impressive, doesn’t shine the brightest of lights upon the team’s frontcourt, which could have controlled the boards a bit better against an undersized team. 

Part of the reason why the game was so close was the ability of Charleston Southern to limit turnovers, or the inability of South Carolina to force them. The Bucs committed just 5 turnovers and had 10 points off turnovers, while South Carolina, to their credit, had just 6 turnovers and 11 points off turnovers. The Gamecocks were outshot by the Buccaneers, who went 48.3% from the field to the Gamecocks’ 46.0% clip, as well as shooting 38.9% from deep compared to South Carolina’s mark of just 24.0%.

Somewhat disappointing was the Gamecocks’ inability to send back shots. Despite Charleston Southern blocking 7 Gamecock shots, South Carolina did not record a single block. When looking at the team stats, it’s almost improbable that South Carolina escaped with a victory. 

The South Carolina women’s game against Bowling Green wasn’t the same lopsided affair as the Presbyterian contest, but the Gamecocks still won by 30+, with the game ending in a 93-62 margin. The Falcons are coached by former Dawn Staley assistant Fred Chmiel.

Chloe Kitts had a highly-efficient game, shooting 10-12 from the field and leading the way with 21 points, setting a new career-high. Ashlyn Watkins, again, had a very good performance off the bench, leading the team with 8 rebounds. Raven Johnson, Te-Hina Paopao, and Kamilla Cardoso all collected 4+ assists on the night, and despite 18 team fouls, no player on the roster committed more than 3 fouls. 

As a team, South Carolina basketball had another very efficient night from the floor, shooting 37-63 for a 58.7% clip. From deep, the Gamecocks were efficient as well, shooting 9-16 for a 56.3% clip, a rate that added to their SEC lead in 3PT%. In the paint, the Gamecocks dominated, recording a 48-16 points in the paint margin.

In terms of interior defense, the Gamecocks weren’t as dominant as they were against Presbyterian, recording just 4 blocks, but that didn’t really have an impact on the game. The result was never in doubt, and South Carolina cruised to another victory. 

In the men’s game against Winthrop, South Carolina looked somewhat improved compared to their previous game against Charleston Southern, winning 72-62. Meechie Johnson was, again, the team MVP, leading the way with 20 points, his fifth 20-point game of the season.

Ta’Lon Cooper and Myles Stute both scored in double-figures, but B.J. Mack struggled, going 3-9 from the floor and scoring 8 points, though he did lead the team in rebounds with 7. In addition to leading the team in points, Meechie Johnson also led the Gamecocks with 5 assists, and both Zachary Davis and Jacobi Wright recorded 2 steals off the bench. 

South Carolina again struggled from deep as a team, shooting 6-26 (23.1%) from behind the arc. That struggle did not follow them to the free-throw line, however, as the Gamecocks (led by Meechie Johnson with a 8-8 mark) went 12-12 from the line, marking the first time the team went 100.0% from the free throw line this season. Somewhat unbelievably, this was the first time the Gamecocks were perfect from the line since a January matchup against Oklahoma State in 2019.

South Carolina dominated in the paint with a 40-16 points in the paint margin, though committing 20 fouls was one of the reasons why Winthrop was able to keep it relatively close. 

South Carolina Basketball Weekly Review:
Lineup Lookback

Yet again, the South Carolina basketball men have rolled out the same starting five. Ta’Lon Cooper, Meechie Johnson, Myles Stute, Stephen Clark, and B.J. Mack all started again for the Gamecocks against Charleston Southern and Winthrop. In terms of minutes pre game, however, Jacobi Wright, Zachary Davis, and Morris Ugusuk continue to average more MPG than Clark, who ranks 2nd on the team in fouls/40 minutes. 

The extended rotation has helped the Gamecocks balance backcourt depth, but it hasn’t led to a ton of points offensively, mostly because Johnson and Mack handle such a large percentage of the team’s possession ends. The Gamecock men are 13th of 14 teams in the SEC in terms of bench points per game, with just 18.4 per game. Arkansas, Auburn, and Mississippi State all average 34+ bench points per game.

This isn’t inherently a bad thing, and it’s a stat that can easily be volatile or artificially distended via one player (i.e. Josh Hubbard averaging 16.0 PPG off the bench) but it does mean that South Carolina could potentially be in trouble offensively if either Mack or Johnson get into foul trouble. 

The women’s team switched up the regular starting five against Presbyterian after Raven Johnson missed the game. Freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley was given the start in Johnson’s absence and had one of the best games of her young career. Against Bowling Green, Johnson was back and the starting five remained the usual Kitts, Cardoso, Hall, Johnson, and Paopao setup. Bree Hall and Chloe Kitts are the only Gamecocks to have started all 11 games this season.

In terms of minutes played, the starting five has averaged the most per game, but Fulwiley and Watkins are just behind, partially due to their own high talent levels and also due to the nature of the games’ competitiveness so far in the schedule.